Until we laid eyes on Garmin Speak with Amazon Alexa, we would have argued there were few remaining frontiers where the ubiquitous virtual assistant could usefully make herself at home. After taking this unprecedented hands-free GPS for a spin, we had no choice but to have Alexa navigate us to the nearest Safeway for a bottle of barbecue sauce to help the doubts we were forced to swallow go down just a bit more smoothly.
Since there’s a lot to unpack from an experience with Garmin Speak, let’s see what an imaginary cruise with Alexa riding shotgun entails.
You start by mounting Garmin Speak on your windshield and taking a moment to marvel at its compact, unobtrusively tiny footprint. After downloading the free companion app to your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone and using your data connection to set up streaming responses through your vehicle stereo system via either wireless pairing or the AUX port cable, you can pile a pair of kiddos into your seats and set off on a course for adventure.
For the most part, that’s roughly the extent of fingers Garmin Speak asks you to lift at its behest. Start by setting your itinerary. Just say, “Alexa, ask Garmin to find the closest deli.” From there, Garmin indeed delivers spoken turn-by-turn directions with street names and arrows indicating the lane for your next exit or turn. Up-to-date map information is constantly refreshed and integrated into real-time traffic updates with absolutely no hidden subscriptions or fees attached.
Of course, all that time behind the wheel is time not ordinarily spent setting your day in order. Not anymore. Garmin Speak has your back with Alexa’s full complement of voice-activated controls at your disposal. You can now spend your rush-hour commute creating shopping, grocery and to-do lists. Add items anytime they occur to you. In fact, let’s go one better: at one point, you check your calendar, have Alexa add or reschedule a few appointments and save some time by having her stuff a few items into your online shopping cart for convenient home delivery. You might even regress to a state of “screw it” and just make a dinner reservation between catching up on NFL scores and getting an update on the stock market.
You can browse literally thousands of endlessly useful skills in the Alexa Skill Store, but always stay tuned. Amazon updates her repertoire on practically a constant basis. There is seemingly always some incredible, brand-new talent she can’t wait to show off.
Suddenly, the truth crashes upon you: no matter how many balls you keep in the air at a time, you always manage to forget something. If you have a wirelessly integrated network of smart-home devices overseeing your space, Garmin Speak and Alexa can remotely activate, turn off, monitor and set your lights, locks, thermostat and more to custom timers with just a few spoken commands. Forget to lock up? Alexia will take care of it. Running late and need her to reset the thermostat for just a few more hours without the air conditioner running for absolutely no one’s comfort? Just ask.
You’ve secured and optimally cooled or heated your home. You shuffled your calendar. You even skimmed your shopping list and added a few essentials. While you wait out the gridlock, relax. Garmin Speak taps instantly into more than 2 million songs, audiobooks, radio stations and podcasts spread across Amazon Prime Music, Pandora and many more subscription-based and free streaming services – except for Spotify (for now.) Search by artist, title or genre whenever and wherever your ears need tickling.
What’s that? You can’t remember who made that one song you heard in that movie a few years back? The one with that guy? Alexa can look up possible answers culled directly from Wikipedia. Once you vanquish that mystery, check on that supposed blizzard rolling in and weigh whether you have time to swing by your local vintage music store and pick it up on vinyl before the “snowpocalypse” descends. Finally, Garmin Speak can fire up a few interactive games and trivia challenges to tame restless passengers until you pull into the driveway. She’ll even flip a coin, pick a card or snap off a few jokes to pass the time.